The text below is the Press Release from the University of Winchester:
Winchester academics share religious expertise in Turkmenistan
19 June 2014
Two University of Winchester lecturers have returned from Turkmenistan where they were asked to share their expertise in religion and beliefs with government officials.
Dr Christina Welch and Dr Paul Hedges, from the University’s Department of Theology and Religious Studies, are recognised as international authorities in religious studies. They were invited to Ashgabat, the capital Turkmenistan, by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), to run a course about religion and belief.
Their three-day course, International Standards on Freedom of Religion and Belief and its Social Context, was the first of its kind to be run in the country. It was attended by government representatives with an interest in religion, human rights, security and international affairs.
“We were extremely honoured to be invited to develop and run this course by the OSCE; an organisation that is doing a fantastic job in liaising with the Turkmenistan government on the topic of freedom of religion and belief,” said Dr Welch. “We were warmly welcomed in the country and found the response from the delegates very positive.”
The delegate list included members of the Mejlis of Turkmenistan; representatives of the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of National Security and Ministry of Internal Affairs; and officials from the Council of Religious Affairs and National Institute of Democracy and Human Rights under the President of Turkmenistan.
During their trip Dr Welch and Dr Hedges met Martin Fenner, Deputy Head of Mission and HM Consul, to discuss the important role the event would play in the future of freedom of religion and belief in Turkmenistan.
The trip was organised and funded by the OSCE, which has an international role to promote human rights, freedom of the press, fair elections, arms control and conflict prevention.